Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Portrait

Apollo-Cavalier King Charles Spaniel-watercolor 11" x 14"
Just finished this little guy. His name is Apollo and he's a Cavalier King Charles spaniel belonging to one of my collectors. Apollo is the fourth champion that I have done for this client. 
Cavaliers are considered a toy breed with a lovely, long coat and friendly temperament. They love a lot of attention, make excellent lap dogs and are generally good with children and adults. They are also very adaptable and are at home in the city or the country. 
This portrait was done in watercolor and gouache and the reference was provided by Betty from Dart Dog Portraits. Betty does some outstanding photography at many of the dog shows in the Northwest. You can find her at
You can see and read about one of the other Cavaliers I've painted here.
 And here is the one that started it all....Teddy.
Teddy-Cavalier King Charles spaniel-watercolor and gouache
 Thanks again to Tom for trusting me with another of his gorgeous dogs!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Lifetime of Brittanies Remembered

A Lifetime of Brittanies-14" x18" pencil and watercolor
The Brittany portrait is now complete and has already gone to it's new home, but this has turned out to be a bittersweet commission. One of the reasons my clients wanted the portrait done is because it represented a lifetime with their dogs, filled with memories of great hunts, the challenges of raising pups and just the wonderful days together that always seem too short. Three of the dogs in the portrait had already gone when I started the piece and Chipper was getting up there in years and having some problems, which was another reason for the painting. Unfortunately, we lost Chipper just the other day and another good dog goes on to hunt other places without us until it's our turn to join them.

I am always blessed by the opportunities that come my way to paint something so special and meaningful for other people. If I have done my job well it brings great pleasure to my clients and to me as well. When situations happen like the loss of a pet during the time that I was creating the painting it becomes even more than it was meant to be, touches both our lives in unexpected ways and, I believe, opens the door to healing a broken heart. 
Until next time.....may your days be filled with wet kisses, cold noses and wonderful memories.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Brittany portrait - work in progress part 2

Brittany portrait-work in progress
As you can see the portrait of the five Brittanies is coming along nicely. Every day I work on it I'm liking it more and more. 
Detail of Brittany portrait
 Above is a detail from the portrait showing the initial pencil work and what it looks like with the watercolor wash. Though it doesn't show very well in the photo the pencil marks are still visible beneath the paint. This is especially evident in the areas of fur that are white.

Using this technique is inspiring ideas for other paintings I'd like to try in the future. That happens quite often when I'm working on a piece. My mind gets into this creative zone that allows it to concentrate on the work I'm doing, yet wander off on other paths. I will often keep another sketch pad or notepad nearby that I will jot ideas on while I'm working. It's kind of a weird ability to have, but then I've never been accused of being normal!

Well, I'm off to continue painting. Hopefully, I will have a finished portrait in a few more days!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Work in Progress - Brittany Portrait

Brittany portrait in progress -14" x 18"
I recently received a request from a past client to do a portrait of their five Brittanies. I have been wanting to do a piece like this for these folks for some time because I know how much each and every dog has meant to them. Like myself, every pet owner I paint for loves their dogs to the depths of their heart and holds special memories there of each and every one. That's why a combined portrait of all of them can be so meaningful. 
Pencil study of Charlie a Brittany
This portrait is a little different in that I'm doing a fairly detailed pencil study of each dog. Over the top of the pencil I will be adding a light wash of watercolor. I use this technique when doing preliminary sketches for other media I may be working in, but it can stand on it's own as a finished piece quite beautifully. 
Here is an example of a Cooper's Hawk study using this technique.
Cooper's Hawk-pencil and watercolor wash

I rather like the understated simplicity of it. 
Hope you all enjoy this peek at a work in progress. I'm hoping to have it finished by next week and will post the final as soon as my client approves.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Beet goes on

Beet sketch-watercolor, acrylic ink, pencil and beet juice

I am not a botanical painter by nature, but because I have been so immersed in my garden this summer I can't help, but be inspired by some of the beautiful veggies that are growing there. Also, because I have been so wrapped up in the processes of planting, harvesting and putting up all this lovely produce (and trying to keep my pup, Balin from digging up, chewing up or trampling my plants), I have had very little time for painting let alone anything else. That's where a sketchbook journal can come in handy. In the rare, unfilled moments I've had lately I can relax with a quick sketch.

Beets aren't the only plant that I have sketched this summer. While foraging for wild edibles in the mountains I thought it might be a good idea to include them in my sketchbook to help me remember what to look for, where I found them and when.
Sketches of wild berries
Watercolor and pen sketch
 These are just a few that I found, but there are so many more. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day right now to accomplish all that I'd like to. If I could create my perfect world I would explore and sketch and paint to my hearts content and let someone else worry about gardening, cooking, cleaning, etc. But until that time I guess the "beet" goes on and I'll be happy with a few sketches now and then until life slows down a bit and I have time for larger works of art.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gathering Fluff

Gathering Fluff-Calliope Hummingbird-5" x 7" Casein painting
This past May I went on a camping trip to Moose Creek Reservoir near Bovill, Idaho. It's a beautiful little lake tucked up in the mountains and teeming with wildlife. We listened to loon calls, watched young bald eagles chase each other, and listened to the forest come alive with bird song and activity.
 One morning on my walk along the lake my eye caught something darting around a stand of cattails. It wasn't very large and my first thought was that it was some kind of bug. I crept closer, being careful not to land in the swamp unexpectedly and had to duck as this creature came buzzing by my head and flew to a nearby tree. "That was no bug", I said to myself and decided to wait for a bit to see if it returned. Sure enough, in a few moments it was back flitting around in the cattails again. The bright morning sun glinted off it's iridescent green back and I was able to get my binos on it for a closer look. I was surprised to see it was a female Calliope hummingbird busy gathering the cattail fluff for her nest! I had never observed a hummingbird doing this before and it fascinated me so I watched a while longer and made a few mental notes for a painting later.
Calliope hummingbirds are our smallest hummer here in the Northwest. They measure a mere 3 1/4" and are common to the mountains. I have seen the males during migration stop at my feeders, but had not seen a female before.
I decided to create a painting depicting this little seen behavior and featuring a female. Though never as colorful as the males, they are a worthy subject none the less. Keeping with my recent experiments in some new mediums I have painted her using casein on illustration board which gave me some wonderful detail. 
She is available for purchase on my Daily Paintworks website.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Happy Summer!

Black-chinned hummingbird-male
Summer is here!
The garden is alive with activity and I am as busy as the honeybees and hummingbirds that are gathering nectar among my flowers and veggies. Because I plant early and have a long growing season I am already harvesting many things. Every day I go out and pick something fresh and healthy from my little garden patch. Lately, it's been pea pods, broccoli, zucchini, strawberries and raspberries.
View of my little garden
My garden is not terribly large, but I pack a lot into it and I have been blessed with abundant harvests. I usually have enough to can or freeze, eat fresh and even share with friends.
Antlers and succulents...YUM!!!
 My new pup, Balin, has been helping me in the garden, mostly by digging holes, destroying plants he deems are dangerous, chewing holes in the broccoli and cabbage leaves and helping himself to the raspberries. So when I'm not picking produce I'm chasing around a rambunctious puppy! 
Needless to say I have not had very much time for art. But in a quiet moment when Balin was asleep I grabbed my sketchbook and did a quick study of a rufous hummingbird using a new medium I'm trying out.
Female rufous hummingbird in casein

 The medium is called casein (pronounced kay-seen) and has actually been around for centuries. It is a milk based pigment that was used in cave paintings and frescoes. It is a water medium and similar to gouache in that it is opaque, but can be thinned down and used like traditional watercolor and after it dries becomes permanent like acrylic. It has a wonderful matte finish and a unique smell. 

I enjoyed my first little experiment and think that I could come to like this medium. In most examples I've seen the medium has been used in a loose and painterly manner in portraits and landscapes like many oil paintings are done. I didn't handle it quite that way, but did like the way it blended and that I could paint over the top once it was dry and not have my underlying paint lift and muddy things up. I hope that I will get a few more opportunities to try casein again throughout my busy summer!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kestrel Spring Part 2

A page from my sketch journal

I was on "nest watch" now for awhile, but there was not much to see. I had no way to visibly check inside the nest box to see if there were eggs, how many there might be or the status of their hatching. Research I did told me that the incubation period was 26-32 days and babies stayed in the nest another 25-30 days or so and “chittering” noises could often be heard by the 16th or 17th day. I estimated that babies might hatch the first part of May so I waited anxiously, visiting the site every few days. Whenever I was there I usually saw the male standing guard on his flag pole or bringing food to the female. He would come in with a vole, call to her and she would come out and eat. The male was a great provider and protector. One morning I saw him attacking a red-tailed hawk that had come into the area. Looking like a jet fighter attacking a B-52 bomber the male would dive at the larger bird repeatedly from above until the larger bird sought out safer and quieter skies.

Male kestrel attacking red-tailed hawk

Around the 18th of May I found the female perched in a nearby tree, but no sign of the male. Though this seemed a little different than what I had been witnessing I didn’t give it much thought until I looked at the nest box. There was a small, red, needle shaped object with a bell shape on the end sticking out of the bottom of the box. My first thought was perhaps the park rangers or a biologist might be monitoring the box for sounds of hatching and this was a small microphone. Something about it and the female being out of the nest a long time just didn’t feel right though, so I found a park ranger and asked if anyone had been officially monitoring the nest boxes then told him what I had seen. I was shocked when he told me the red object was most likely a dart from a blow gun! Of course, there was nothing to be done about it because there was no way to know who did it.

Now I was really mad and really alarmed! I began to wonder if this dart caused damage to anything inside the box. Information I found on blow guns said darts could penetrate ½” thick plywood and were used to take small game. I wondered if the absence of the male indicated he may have become a target for this stupid act as he was highly visible on his flagpole and within easy range for a blow gun. I searched the areas beneath the flagpole for possible signs this may have happened, but could find no evidence. I feared that the whole “science project” was lost by this senseless act.

A few days later I got a call from another birder who was also watching the nest. He let me know that he head seen the female taking a vole to the nest. There must be babies! This was encouraging and on a few other days he let me know that he had seen both a male and female in the area so perhaps all was not lost. For the next few weeks I only observed a female in the area, but never saw her bring food to the nest and I never heard any noise coming from the box to indicate any babies were present. Her continued presence in the area was all I had to encourage me to keep watching.
Sketch of two female kestrel chcks

Finally, on the 2nd of June I saw what I had been hoping for….a baby kestrel was visible in the hole of the nest box! Of course, that morning I had walked up without my camera because I hadn’t been seeing or hearing anything to indicate that babies were present. The baby looked fully feathered and ready to leave the nest. Now I was torn. If I stayed put I might witness the babies fledge, but not be able to record the event. If I left for the camera I might still have a chance to take photos after the fact, but miss the magical moment when they took to the skies for the first time. After a few agonizing seconds I opted to run, really fast, to retrieve my camera from my truck, praying the whole way that after all this watching and waiting I wouldn’t miss this part. Returning to the nest my heart was pounding so hard I could hardly steady the camera. I had not missed a thing and spent about an hour photographing them and waiting to see if anything was going to happen. I saw at least two chicks stick their heads out one at a time and peer around. There was at least one male and one female, but I never heard any “chittering” going on inside. After a while I had to leave them and fully expected to never see them again.
Male kestrel chick

They did not fledge that day or the next, but when I checked on the 6th of June I found two females in nearby trees. I could not find the male, but suspect he was close by. Mama was calling from the flagpole and shortly Papa flew in with a vole. He was calling excitedly and landed next to one of the babies. However, he did not like my presence there and after stashing his vole he came back to warn me off. Swooping low over my head and cussing me out he convinced me my study of his family was done.

It has been an incredible learning experience! I have taken loads of photos and documented as much as I could in my sketchbook. I had no idea when I started gathering reference photos for those paintings I wanted to do that it would lead to all this, but I consider myself exceptionally blessed. I have a couple of more ideas for paintings that I'd like to do using all this information that I've gathered and with a little luck and determination I will get started on those soon. In the meantime, I wish "my" little kestrel family well and pray for their survival, but know it will be a tough life for them out there in the wild.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kestrel Spring Part 1

For the past two months I have been focused on documenting the nesting behavior of a pair of American kestrels. I had not intended on spending my spring this way, but as I was gathering reference photos for some paintings I was planning on doing their story began to unfold before me and I found myself caught up in their struggle to bring new life into this world. This is part one of their story.
My observations began in March, shortly after completing my first painting of a pair of kestrels. While trying to photograph a male kestrel in flight for another painting idea I watched him hover and stoop on his prey. Each time he would catch a mouse or vole and fly off. In a few minutes he would return and catch another. By the third time I realized he was not eating the voles. If he had, by now he would be so heavy he couldn’t fly! But I was curious. What had he done with the voles?

A few days later I observed a pair of kestrels checking out a nest box. Kestrels are cavity nesters and will often use nest boxes. The male chooses the site and invites his lady to check out the real estate. Apparently, she approved because she entered and didn’t come back out. This was just the beginning of their courtship and in a few more days I had answers to where all the voles were disappearing to.

The next opportunity I had to view the pair was the most interesting and exciting. That morning I watched the male hunting again. He caught the first vole and flew to some evergreen bushes. In just moments he returned to hunting, not enough time to consume a vole. Soon he came back with another. This time he flew to a leafless tree and I watched him stuff the vole into an old, empty birds nest and fly off! The third time he returned with a vole he flew to the nest box and went partially in. I heard a whole lot of words exchanged. The lady was not very hungry, I guess, or perhaps she was doing some housekeeping and didn’t want a dead vole messing things up because he hastily retreated to another tree where he stashed his catch.

I went back that afternoon and she was in a better mood. The male flew to that last tree, retrieved his vole and flew to a perch near the nest box. He called softly and the female appeared at the door. She joined him and he presented her with his gift of slightly aged vole which she took and hungrily devoured.

 After dinner she was much more receptive when he flew over and they mated. That was quite a feat to do while the two balanced on a narrow twig. I noticed he was very careful to keep his toes curled in such a way as to not stick her with his talons which I’m sure she appreciated. This was not something I would have ever considered about birds of prey mating. If they didn’t keep their talons curled under it would be a very dangerous act, indeed! He then flew off and caught another vole for her and a bug for himself.

In doing some research on this I learned that “American kestrels are monogamous falcons that establish pair-bonds. Courtship begins early in the breeding season, after a nesting site has been established. Copulation can be initiated by either sex, and usually takes multiple attempts before fertilization occurs. Pairs bond with courtship rituals, such as aerial displays and courtship feeding. After a relationship is developed, it becomes strong and usually permanent. Most pairs return to the same nesting sites for consecutive years."

I continued to watch for several days and my observations supported the research. As time went on I continued to visit the nest site nearly daily as it was on one of the trails I use when I'm out on my walks. For awhile there was not much to document except the male bringing food to the female and softly calling for her to come out and receive it. Then, some things changed.

I will post the rest of the story in a day or two so be sure to check back to see how their story ends!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Introducing Balin

Balin - 7 weeks old
It has been four months since I lost my Maggie and I have been struggling to get past the huge void that her passing has left. I knew that I wanted to get another Chesapeake to help my heart heal and after a great deal of searching, waiting for the litter to be born, then waiting for the pups to be ready, the day finally arrived. This past weekend we brought home my third Chessie pup, this one from Blue Skies Kennel in Cheney, Wa. I am pleased to introduce the new love of my life, Balin.
 Oh, my gosh, he is handsome and smart! (I may be slightly biased here) He is 15 lbs. of puppy exuberance and energy and is keeping me running trying to keep up with him. My garden is now on the endangered list as he happily runs through it taste-testing as many plants as he can before I can catch him. He has trampled my beans, shredded my cabbage and totally trashed my iris by pouncing into the center of them and thrashing his way out. He also loves digging in the dirt, rooting through the compost pile and splashing in his wading pool. All this in just four days! Whew! I'm tired and we've only just begun!
Balin waiting for dinner
When he's not terrorizing my garden he can be too cute for words. His next favorite place is in the kitchen either sleeping by his dishes, snuffling around for lost morsels or sitting in the dishes waiting for food to magically appear in them. I'm hoping he's not going to eat me out of house and home, but most Chessies have robust appetites and all my dogs have loved their food. All have gladly helped me out in the garden, too, and it looks like Balin will follow that path as well.
A sketch of Balin in a quiet moment.

Time to paint will be at a premium for a few weeks as I make the adjustment to having the little guy in my life. Even when Maggie was sick she was still fairly self-sufficient and I didn't have to monitor her constantly. Balin will need lots of supervision for awhile as he grows and learns his boundaries. 

It's a bittersweet time for me as I embrace the challenge of this new pup and start letting go of my Maggie. I already love him more than I thought I could and my house feels whole again. I look forward to all the good memories I'm going to make with Balin and to the time when I get to create his portrait to hang alongside my two other loves, Jake and Maggie.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Springtime Avocets

Springtime Avocets-Acrylic 5" x7"

Every spring we get several kinds of shorebirds passing through and resting in our area as they head for their breeding grounds. One of my favorites is the American Avocet. They are elegant looking birds in their breeding plumage with cinnamon colored heads and uniquely curved bills. The females bill curves more than the males. They swing their long up-curved bills through shallow water to catch small invertebrates. 

I found these birds feeding in a lagoon near my house. The morning was sunny and bright and made the avocets color glow. I especially liked the reflection of the trees in the water in their early spring greens and how that perfectly complimented the rusty red of the birds heads.

This painting is done in acrylic and is just 5" x 7". It is available through my Daily Paintworks website.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gouache Revisited

American Kestrel sketch in gouache  
Things have been sort of hectic lately with family visiting, preparing for a new puppy and getting my vegetable and flower gardens planted. There hasn't been a whole lot of time for painting with all this going on. After a while I start to miss the creative outlet and need to paint something, anything, as long as it feeds the need.

Having just a short window of opportunity last night and a great need to paint I pondered what I could do quickly and feed my addiction. My sketchbook and paints were still laying there from the last time I painted and I thought about how much fun I had playing with gouache again. I then recalled a painting I had seen recently of a bird painted in gouache (opaque watercolor pronounced "gwash" on a toned paper called "Mi-Teintes" (pronounced "me taunts" and is French for "mid tones"). I really liked the illustrative look of this painting and thought I'd give it a try using my current favorite subject, a kestrel! can see the result above. I really liked the way this looks and I'm thinking I need to revisit gouache again. Not only does it have a nice matte finish, but it blends easily, covers well and you can get some incredible detail with it. I used to paint almost all of my pet portraits with it like this one of my friends Schnauzers.
I guess I stopped using it because I was looking for a medium that I could paint with that didn't need to be framed under glass so I moved on to acrylics. But recently there's been a renewed interest in this medium because a product by Ampersand, called Aquabord, has come out that allows you to paint water media on a coated hardboard surface that, once sealed properly, does not need to be framed under glass. Of course, I didn't paint my little sketch on that, but the point is that this is a wonderful medium that deserves my attention again. So maybe in the days ahead, as my schedule becomes less hectic, I can find some time to play with gouache again and maybe that funny sounding paper, too!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Peregrine Sketch In My Journal

Peregrine falcon sketch - gouache
I have been trying lately to spend more time with my sketchbook journal. While journaling is not new to me a journal with pictures is. I'm finding the experience both exhilarating and intimidating. On the one hand I'm enjoying the freedom to record observations and make quick studies of various plants, animals and birds that capture my attention without having to create a whole finished painting. I love the spontaneity. The combination of words and pictures, color notes, weather conditions, etc. give me much more information when it comes time to create a completed painting. The journals are also nice because I can do a small thumbnail sketch in different media until I find what works best instead of starting a larger painting and not liking how it's going and have to start over.

The flip side to all this is that I am a detail-oriented perfectionist and so the sketchbook journals intimidate me because I try to make myself work quickly and loosely. That spontaneity I love also makes me feel like I'm out of control! I seem to think I have to create a beautiful, perfect painting every time I look at a blank page. It runs through my mind that someone might see these unfinished, imperfect sketches and think, "My gosh! This woman calls herself an artist?!" This is silly, I know because no one ever has to see them unless I choose to share. 

So this is my struggle, but it's also a good learning experience. It's good to stretch and grow and try new things. The peregrine was done in gouache which is a medium I haven't used for quite a while now and never one that I've sketched with. I tried to let myself play, keep it loose and sketchy. It's a little messy compared to my usual style, but you know what? I really kind of like it!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kestrels Again

Female Kestrel-acrylic 5" x 7"
I seem to really be stuck on this kestrel theme lately and have created two more paintings of them. 
Male Kestrel- acrylic 5" x 7"
These are separate paintings depicting a male and a female and may be purchased as a pair or would also make a nice individual piece.

I am hoping to continue this series and have ideas for at least a few more paintings featuring American kestrels. I have found a couple of nesting pairs this spring and hope to follow them through the nesting season taking photos and making sketches. Sometimes it's nice to study your subject in depth instead of just creating an artwork and moving on. There is so much to learn and I think it helps you to grow as an artist by slowing down and really observing your subject.

These two paintings are available directly from me or may be purchased through my Daily Paintworks gallery. They are $125.00 each or $200.00 for the pair.
Stay tuned and see what I come up with next!